By Frank Corsoe
There was no better way to spend a summer day than a visit to our second house of worship — Connie Mack Stadium. Best bud Bob and I thought a Sunday doubleheader against the Mets was the right prescription for the ills of the slow summertime day. In addition, my all-time favorite Phillies pitcher Rick Wise was on the mound in the first game, July 7, 1968. I made an attempt to see every one of Wise’s starts over a two-year period starting in 1967.
Wise was workmanlike in facing the Mets lineup but trailing in the game 3-1. The Phils lone run came on a Johnny Callison homer to right field. It’s the bottom of the 9th and my patience was wearing thin with a leather-lunged Mets fan booing Richie Allen as he sauntered to the plate with one out and two on. ”Yo, Mr. Met,” I said. ”Richie Allen is gonna get a hit. And I’ve got $2 that says he will.”Mr. Met accepted with a caveat. “If he strikes out, you owe me $4.”
I said, “If he homers, you owe me $5. “We both shook on the bet and Bob held the money. The fans on the third base side were enthusiastically cheering every pitch of the wager. I knew Allen hit Ron Taylor, the Mets reliever, despite his side-arm delivery.On the sixth pitch of a 3-2 count, Allen hit a thunderous drive to deep left center field that cleared the 387 marker with ease.
It was the highlight of the day that setup the perfect trifecta score — Phils win, Mr. Met is heartbroken, and I’m up $5 as Phillies fans are jumping on top of me and Bob celebrating.
Keep in mind, box seats were worth about $3.25 then. I had enough money to go see another Phils game. Surprisingly, Mr. Met was a gentleman and congratulated us. We shook hands. For those keeping the score, the Mets topped the Phils in the nightcap.
I am not asking Major League Baseball’s Veterans Committee to explore revisionist history. All I am asking of the group is to give former Phillies player Dick Allen a fair shake.And by all accounts, he hasn’t received one.Unbelievably, he’s not in the Hall of Fame. Statistically, he was one of the best players to ever suit up. I believe he’s being judged unfairly for everything but his ability to be one of the most feared hitters of his generation. He posted campaigns as National League Rookie of the Year in 1964 and Most Valuable Player of the American League in 1972 and was a seven-time All-Star.
I never booed Richie Allen who we knew in the 1960s. I have never booed any Phillies player, though, I came close once. He was one of the spokes in the wheel that made 1964 one of the greatest seasons for 150 games. Allen and Callison were two of the best 3-4 hitters in the game.
I know there were issues with the complex Allen. It would not do anyone any good to overlook the problems he faced on, off the field during the turbulent 1960s. Some problems were portrayed as racial, some were of his own doing. He alienated some, thrilled others.
I can’t defend him blowing off a doubleheader, leaving his team shorthanded. I can’t begin to comprehend the racial tension he must have felt. I didn’t walk a mile in his shoes. But I will stand on top of Billy Penn’s hat and scream till I’m Phillies-red in the face that Dick Allen belongs in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. And he deserved the honor years ago.
Allen, with his trusty bat, the 40-ounce tree trunk, was a force. We used to call his weapon of mass destruction the “Wampum War Club.”In an era where pitchers are throwing from a mound that resembles the Camelback double diamond in the Poconos, Allen crushed it. Five years, 145 homers before the mound was lowered to equal the playing field for hitters. The man hit 351 homers, 1,119 runs batted in, and a lifetime .292 batting average over a 15-year career. Can you imagine if we added the inflation numbers of the HR totals in today’s game? Now here’s something that is black and white.
Richard Anthony ‘Dick’ Allen was one of the best players who ever wore a Phillies uniform and one of the greatest power hitters the game has produced. It’s embarrassing for the sport that he’s not in the Hall of Fame.The very least, Mr. Allen’s number should be retired by the Phillies, the team I love, adore and will till the day I draw my last breath. It’s time to bring Allen home for good. Let Dick Allen enjoy his 9th inning as he provided joy for all of us.
Frank Corsoe, a lifelong Phillies fan, is a retired journalist and former sports editor.